Bridge Lake Ice Caves in British Columbia’s Cariboo: A Cool Place to Visit on a Hot Day
On a recent trip to Bridge Lake Provincial Park (read our blog), we took a day trip to a nearby destination we had read about that seemed too good to be true on a sweltering Cariboo day – the Bridge Lake Ice Caves.
Now, if you are picturing ice caves in the traditional sense, a glistening and icy blue arch, you will be disappointed. But the Bridge Lake Ice Caves have an even more interesting heritage. A Recreation Sites and Trails BC location in partnership with numerous local organizations, the Bridge Lake Ice Caves highlight a unique geological feature of the Bridge Lake shoreline. The annual freeze/thaw process, coupled with ongoing erosion, has created a shoreline full of crevices into which the annual snowfall melts and refreezes into ice. In the bottom of these caves and crevices, the ice remains cold and persists well into the summer, if not year round.
When we visited in mid August, it was plenty hot walking the trails around the rec site, but when we descended towards the ice caves the air became cooler and cooler the further we descended. Several of the crevices we looked in contained nothing more than moist rock walls and cool temperatures, but in two areas in particular we were able to find actual ice.
According to the interpretive signage and the Recreations Sites and Trails BC website, local historians and storytellers have shared that the ice caves were used by both local First Nations and early European settlers to harvest ice to preserve food and to keep cool.
While the ice caves themselves are cool (both literally and figuratively!), the government of BC and local community organizations have done an excellent job of developing a family-friendly rec site in the heart of the Cariboo. The site has several trails named after local wildlife. On our trip we walked the Low Mobility Wolf Trail, the Beaver Trail, the Coyote Trail, and the Owl Trail. The trails are marked with totems, and represent the animal on whose trail you are travelling.
The low mobility Wolf Trail is a 0.5 kilometre, hard packed, low-grade, gravel nature trail leading from the parking lot to two viewing platforms (one of which is wheelchair accessible) overlooking the ice caves and Bridge Lake. Along the trail there are several outdoor workout facilities, including a balance beam to hop over, a push up/pull up station, and a zig-zag balance walk. At the end of the Wolf Trail there is a serious flight of stairs to run up and down for those looking for more cardio. The workout stations along the Wolf Trail are called Otter, Raven, Loon, and Eagle and each is marked with a totem.
From the end of the Wolf Trail we descended the stairs to the Beaver Trail. The Beaver Trail hugs the lakeshore and is a much rougher trail than the Wolf Trail. Next, we headed up the Coyote Trail, which was very steep and rough. This brought us to the ice caves area where we enjoyed the view and explored. To head back to the parking lot, we took the Owl Trail, which was again wide, flat, and hard packed. Along the trail there were excellent viewpoints of Bridge Lake and plenty of benches to take a break if needed.
When I first heard about the ice caves, the picture that popped into my head turned out to be completely inaccurate to what we experienced. In reality, the Bridge Lake Ice Caves recreation site provides an excellent series of walking and hiking trails. There are beautiful views over Bridge Lake and the ice caves themselves are fascinating both geologically and historically.
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Published: July 4, 2023
Last Updated: July 4, 2023
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